Spring Fever- Late Winter Checklist For Pets7 min read
SPRING FEVER- WINTERS ARE TOO LONG!
By the time March rolls around most people and pets are sick and tired of everything and anything that has to do with winter including the cold, snowy weather. Spring fever is setting in! Snow storms in March are relatively common but there is one nice thing about them. The snow melts quickly since the sun is higher in the sky. How much easier is it to let the kids out in the summer compared to winter! No winter clothes to bundle the youngsters in. Every parent has spent half an hour dressing a child for the outdoors in the winter. Then after 1 minute outdoors the child wants to come in. The same thing happens with cats. Cats think the outdoor temperature in the winter is the same as a nice, warm house. Just open the door and watch what happens when a blast of cold air hits the cat! Scamper off he goes.
With spring fever around the corner there are numerous things that pet owners have to attend to before they start thinking about barbecues and cocktails on the deck with a gentle breeze blowing through their hair. Why wait for a northern spring when you can enjoy a beautiful, late winter day in South Florida? It was 83 degrees in Miami today!
IS YOUR PET NEUTERED?
Spring may soon be in the air but the biological clock for the animal kingdom is just lurking under the surface of a late winter day. Cats need close to 12 hours of sunlight to come into heat. Right before that happens the intact females start wagging their tails in anticipation of mating season. The problems are several. There are way too many unwanted pets born each year. Males also fight over female animals in heat. That means many unneutered male cats are involved in cat fights that can lead to abscesses and easily spread feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) to other cats. Lastly, love is blind. Many male animals get hit by cars in spring time. They see a female in heat across the street and do not pay attention to passing traffic. Avoid all these spring fever headaches and get your male and female pets neutered.
ARE YOUR PETS UP TO DATE ON VACCINATIONS?
If you live in a temperate climate winter is good for several reasons. I know you don’t want to hear it now but there are benefits. There is a lesser chance of infectious diseases being transmitted since direct contact between animals is decreased in winter weather. Most viruses EXCEPT PARVOVIRUS need a host (another pet) to replicate in. With decreased animal contact this can not happen. Parvovirus remains active for months in cold snowy weather! This is totally unusual for most viruses. Another benefit of winter is that persistent cold weather KILLS all parasites such as fleas and ticks that drive pets crazy spring onward. In Florida, parasites are a year round problem due to warm weather. Giardia sp, a nasty intestinal parasitic infection, is all over the place down here. As it warms up infectious diseases become more common so make sure all adult animals are up to date on vaccinations.
Be very careful of exposing young puppies or kittens that are going through a vaccination program to other dogs and cats. Young animals have an immature immune system and are susceptible to picking up infectious diseases when compared to an adult animal. Young dogs can pick up Parvovirus even after having been vaccinated for it 3 times by the time the animal is 14 weeks of age!
ALWAYS make sure that your dog or cat is vaccinated against the rabies virus. As it warms up animals are exposed not only to other dogs and cats but a greater chance of exposure to wildlife that harbors the rabies virus such as: skunks, raccoon and bats. Rabies vaccination is not only a very valuable insurance policy but also the law in the United States. In the history of the human race there has never been one individual that has survived a clinical case of rabies. It is always fatal! Saying an indoor cat never goes outdoors so it doesn’t need a rabies shot is wishful thinking and an error in judgment. Rabies is twice as prevalent in cats than dogs in the U.S.
THE PROBLEM WITH WEIGHT GAIN
Cold winter weather tends to keep people indoors more. Cold weather helps stimulate appetite. That is a normal physiological response since keeping warm requires lots of calories; so people feel hungry all the time. This is just simple mammalian survival. The problems lie in the excessive amount of calories and alcohol that are ingested around the holiday season. Pets eat a lot more also and come late winter many are overweight. When the owners don’t want to go outdoors for a walk this also includes pets. When spring fever hits this time of year go easy on the animal when taking it on walks. Extra weight puts extra pressure on joints so start off with short walks and make them longer over time to avoid musculoskeletal injuries.
THAT LONG THICK HAIR-COAT
As fall approaches the hair-coat of most dogs and cats starts to thicken. This is the way an animal stays warm in the winter. Domestic animals and wildlife all have this ability to develop a thick coat for the winter. The problem is that this thick, luxurious coat can make a dog or cat excessively warm as spring progresses towards summer. Late winter in temperate climates people are finding clumps of hair all over the place! This is a natural shedding of the winter coat. Dogs should be brushed or groomed more often. This will help to remove not only excess hair but encourages layering of the remaining hairs. This layering will keep an animal cooler during the summer months of the year and will also help prevent many bacterial skin infections from developing.
SPRING CLEANING OUTDOORS
Spring fever just beckons most people and pets to go outdoors once the weather breaks. I may have lived in South Florida for almost 10 years but I have never forgotten the brutal winters up north. When you do venture outdoors check your fences and gates for any problems that may have developed over the winter. Make sure all gate latches are in working order and there are no holes in wooden fences or ways for dogs to climb over or under them. Cats just laugh when they see a fence. They just climb right over it.
Walk around your home and make your property safe for your pets when they too venture outdoors. Walk the yard and remove any pieces of metal or nails that could easily puncture the webbing of an animal’s paws. Remove any sharp edges around fences or walkways that could cut an animal. The easiest way to do this is to get down to the level of your dog and survey the property and the world as he does. You will pick up things that you may have missed standing up.